If there is a core concept in our communities and country, it is to provide an excellent and equitable education for our children – for all of our children.
Talking about educating our children is easy; putting the rubber to the road map is far more difficult. That challenge is being met on a daily basis in King County through two programs – the Road Map Project and Reconnect to Opportunity.
Opportunity Youth Initiative Director Nicole Yohalem said the Road Map Project provides data and information to the school districts to assist them in learning which education plans are working and which ones are not meeting expectations.
The project is supported and staffed through the Community Center for Education Results, a nonprofit organization founded in 2010.
Yohalem said the idea is, “It takes a village. Schools alone can’t address poverty and (the) many issues facing them.”
The project’s focus goes beyond graduating seniors. It spans from the cradle to college or career program. On the website of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Road Map Project is described as intending to, “make large-scale change and (it) has created a common goal and shared vision to facilitate coordinated action, both inside and outside schools.”
Funding for the project, $525,000 over two years, originated from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the World Languages Program at OSPI.
According to the OSPI site, the principal partners involved in the project are seven school districts – Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Seattle and Tukwila. Also the participating are Office of the Education Ombudsman, School’s Out Washington, the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon and Education Northwest as an evaluator.
The 2015 Road Map Results Report stated the goal is “to double the number of students in South King County and South Seattle who are on track to graduate from college or earn a career credential by 2020. We are committed to nothing less than closing the unacceptable opportunity and achievement gaps for low-income students and children of color, and increasing achievement for all students from cradle through college and career.”
Yohalem said the staff works toward helping school districts and educators talk about the shared goal of education beyond high school, whether it be college or a two-year technical program.
Yohalem said the Puget Sound region has a high number of jobs that “require post secondary training and our kids are missing out.”
The Results Report noted, “Our region has a ‘leaky pipeline,’ and we’re losing 72 percent of students between ninth grade and the completion of a college degree or career credential. Attaining a postsecondary credential is an increasingly important step toward achieving career and economic success. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, 67 percent of the jobs in Washington state will require some form of postsecondary credential by 2018.”
The report went on to add, “It is unacceptable that race/ethnicity and income level predict our students’ educational success. The region’s knowledge-intensive economy provides high-paying jobs, but most of the students growing up here are not being prepared to access those opportunities.”
Yohalem said her work includes a wide array of efforts on many fronts. She worked with the school superintendents to receive a Race to the Top grant.
“Another idea is kindergarten registration across a region,” she said. “All schools doing registration on the same day. There is greater efficiency from doing it together.”
Yohalem pointed to a novel approach to English language learners. The English language learning workgroup has advocated for a seal of bilingual literacy that can be on added to a diploma. Promoting bilingual students as having a valuable talent rather than a language deficit.
Another important issue is the drop-out rate and bringing the students back for another chance.
Hannelore Makhani, Re-Engagement System Manager for King County, works on the Reconnect to Opportunity project. The website states the program “connects young people ages 16 to 24, who have not finished high school, to education and employment opportunities in King County.”
Makhani said the core of the program is giving youth who fell out of the system a “second chance.”
It is a program meant to reconnect young people and help them find a way to complete their education and find a career. The goal and work of the project is to provide support and opportunities for students and youths who have found the “education system did not work,” Makhani said.
The overall plan for Reconnect to Opportunity is re-engagement for students who may have dropped out or found the education system did not work, offering employment services and navigating post-secondary school opportunities. This is also the work of the Road Map project and Community Center for Education Results.
“I support all these providers,” Makhani said in King County. Each month Makhani said the various providers meet to learn and exchange ideas and to “coordinate and align our goals.”
She said two years ago the need for the Reconnect to Opportunity program began to expand rapidly.
The program goal is to, “figure out how to help students decide which program is best,” Makhani said
The program has a wide array of options for youths to explore including YouthSource Renton and High School 21+ at Renton Technical College where adults over 21 can earn a high school diploma.
Reconnect to Opportunity is one more cog in a turning wheel meant to offer education and career-building opportunities to all students and young adults.
The Road Map Project, Community Center for Education Results and Reconnect to Opportunity along with individuals like Makhani and Yohalem give truth to the axiom it takes a community of committed believers to make a village for all.